CaribWorldNews, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. Nov. 19, 2010: Congressional friend of the Caribbean, Rep. Charles Rangel, may be formally censured for ethical misconduct.
The Committee on Standards of Conduct or the House Ethics Committee formally recommended the census yesterday by a 9-1 vote.
The panel`s vote came after an emotional hearing during which Congressman Rangel struggled to compose himself and pleaded for mercy, sounding alternately defiant and apologetic.
`I don`t know how much longer I have to live,` said Rangel. But he said whatever time he has, he will spend it trying `to help people and thank God for what he`s given to me.`
The vote ends the committee`s two-year investigation into the New York Democrat`s improper fundraising, failure to pay taxes, and failure to report income on his Congressional financial disclosure forms.
The recommendation is the most serious punishment the House can mete out, short of expelling a member. The censure must now be approved by the full House, which plans to take up the matter after its Thanksgiving recess.
If the censure is approved, the 80-year-old Rangel will become the first member to receive such punishment since 1983, when two congressmen were rebuked for sexual misconduct with House pages.
Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, called the deliberations `wrenching.`
The vote came after the eight member lawmaker sub-committee refused to be swayed, rejecting his appeal for an extension and instead reached a unanimous verdict on 10 of the 13 counts, including, that Rangel improperly used his congressional staff and official letterhead to raise seven-figure donations from corporate charities and chief executives for a college wing named in his honor; violated New York City rules by housing his political committees in his rent-controlled apartments in Harlem; did not pay taxes on a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic; and did not properly disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal financial assets.
Two charges – involving violations of postal service laws and House mail privilege statutes – were merged into one, which the panel concluded had `clear and convincing evidence` that Rangel violated rules.
Rangel had released a statement Tuesday blasting the decision. `How can anyone have confidence in the decision of the Ethics Subcommittee when I was deprived of due process rights, right to counsel and was not even in the room?` it said. `I can only hope that the full Committee will treat me more fairly, and take into account my entire 40 years of service to the Congress.`
Rangel earlier this year was forced to give up his powerful Ways and Means Committee Chairmanship post after being admonished by an ethics panel for taking corporate trips to the Caribbean to conferences organized by the New York Carib News paper, in violation of House rules. The congressman was a regular at the conferences and is a friend of many Caribbean leaders. He was this year honored by the Jamaican government and has in the past hosted Caribbean leaders in New York for a conference on the Caribbean and its Diaspora.